Michael J. Fox on how his dog has helped him with his Parkinson's disease

By Zach Harper

Michael J. Fox on how his dog has helped him with his Parkinson's disease


There are very few people out there who don't love spending time with animals. Pet owners know when we're sad, our furry friends often help us process our emotions, and they're as much a part of our families as the human members. Pets and service animals can also be helpful for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses, and Michael J. Fox recently spoke about how his dog, Gus, helps him with his Parkinson's disease.

In an interview with CBS News' Lee Cowan that will air Nov. 27 as part of The Pet Project, Michael revealed just how vital Gus has been in his life.

"Your instinct when you have a chronic illness is to sometimes isolate and make your world as small as possible so you don't have much to deal with, but a dog will open you up," he said.

The 59-year-old, who went public with his Parkinson's diagnosis in 1998, called the very good boy a "force multiplier" and pointed out animals help give people battling health conditions a sense of connection.

"You know no matter your situation, no matter what you feel, this animal is with you and is connected with you," he said.

Two years ago, Michael had surgery to remove a tumour from his spinal cord, and was in a wheelchair when he got out of the hospital. The treatment meant he had to completely learn how to walk again.

"People say, 'I had to learn to walk again,' and I think sometimes they mean they had to get a balanced stride or get an evenness with their pace," he told CBC recently. "I had to literally learn to pick up my foot, put it in front of the other foot, and then transfer my balance over the other foot. It was quite painstaking."

Gus greeted him immediately at the door when he arrived home.

"He kind of circles the wheelchair with this low kind of 'woof, woof, woof,' and sat in front of the wheelchair – right in front of me – and looked at me, and I said, 'It's going to be okay,'" Michael told CBS News.

The beloved Back to the Future star also recently announced he will retire from acting for a second time due to his Parkinson's. He made the revelation in No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, his new memoir. The book made The New York Times Best Sellers List.

Parkinson's is known for causing tremors due to how it affects the body's movement, and it can also affect cognitive skills. In the book, Michael revealed he's been having trouble remembering lines due to the illness. But he isn't completely ruling out acting ever again.

"There's always something in the future to be optimistic about, to look forward to," he recently told CBC News. "It may change our circumstances or it may not, but that will run out, so enjoy it while you have it."

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